Watching the Breath: listening to the light

Day 93: Yes, I know there are other people still locked down. Steven Colbert was last week. Possibly, my region can be opened up this week, but the last I heard cases of Covid-19 were still going up, especially in my suburb. Although, honestly, it won’t make much difference to me, given my advanced age and the nearly 20% chance that it will be fatal if I catch it.

For the first three weeks, I didn’t leave my apartment, but then grocery delivery stopped working. You could order a large number of things and sit up until 12 a.m. to get a delivery slot, four nights in a row and never get one. Conclusion – I had had too few children, the two I had were wanderers and I would have to scuttle out before daylight and buy my own.

So for three months, I have been staring out my high windows at the sky, my feet touching earth once a week to hunt and gather. The good news is it’s now daylight at 6:50 a.m.

I know everyone has had different stresses and pressures. I’m grateful I wasn’t shut up with the man I married nor our children who needed the challenge of strenuous exercise to keep from killing each other. We were both teachers, and good at it, except with our own offspring, who tended to run screaming from the room when their father tried to teach them algebra.

So there’s that to be grateful for.

I also know there are many, many single people who have got to the end of their rope, like me, around 9 p.m. when they haven’t heard another voice all day. Except of course on television. I am proud of the fact that so far I have had only one real panic attack caused by a sudden vision of burning cities and gunfire. We had already had some of that, but this was worse and involved Trump’s rally in Tulsa. I called Georgia my sister, who was puzzled because I couldn’t speak. Finally and with no sociological reference, I managed, “I can’t breathe.” It was a doozy combining all the symptoms of suffocation, heart attack, food poisoning and seizure-like spasms.

Georgia said in a kindly, scolding voice, “You know we all signed up for this. Every last one of us. We made an agreement to take on these roles – victim or killer or Covid patient. We came to do these things, to learn a certain lesson. Anyway, it’s all already happened.”

Now you may not agree with Georgia’s view of destiny, which we undertake pre-incarnation. I’m not altogether sure that I do. At the time,  it seemed a wise idea, although I nearly drew the line at it had “already happened”.

Half an hour later I had calmed down.

Next day I checked in with my daughter in California and she seconded everything Georgia had said, despite the fact that the two of them have barely spoken for forty years. I still want to nail them down about the simultaneity of time. Certain times I absolutely do not want to ever encounter again.

Such as this one.

Thank goodness for household chores that ground me, thank you for Face Time and video calling and even telephones, thank you for television – for  news channels and Netflix and Acorn, thank you for e-books and library loans by internet, thank you for socially distanced chats in Georgia’s backyard and drive-by birthday parties and thank you for the strange experience of being a monk in a mountain cave.

I had read a lot about these chaps in my study of Buddhism and Taoism. I knew that they depended on routine. That seemed an odd way to organize nothing, but I leapt to the task. One of my first daily tasks is to put my hair in order. It was last cut in late January. I wear it short, very short, usually. Now it is half way down my long neck and curling up in an awkward reverse pageboy. This morning I found myself saying, “Fuzzy-wuzzy was a bear..”

Both Georgia and my daughter are fond of reminding me to breathe. I, of course, always respond in my robot voice, “What is breathe?” “Watch your breath,” my daughter says. “And listen”.

I can see about 50 miles of horizon out my floor-to-ceiling windows. The view’s horizon is the shore of Lake Ontario. The photo above does show a line of darker blue that is the water. In the east, I can see the C.N. Tower in downtown Toronto and in the west, I can see the height of the Niagara Escarpment, the only height in this flat land. I particularly love Rattlesnake Point there and longed to go there for the long weeks of shut-in.

I used to live in a ground floor apartment in a triplex. There were bushes and flowers, trees and birds at my level. Now my view is of doll house roofs and tree tops. And sky. I have taken to noticing the change in light throughout the day. At the moment the ground is all green kodachrome while the sky is light blue fading to white over the lake. I have watched a line-squall suddenly tear through with floods of rain and tree-bending winds. I have watched its darkness leave just as suddenly to lash the city. I have remembered the names of clouds from my sailing days and the weather they presaged.

I have sat in absolute stillness listening to the quiet.

At dawn this morning, I dreamed of a man who loved me when I was young, a tweedy grad student who smoked a pipe and wrote me love poetry. I liked him well enough, and spent time with my roommate in the house he lived in with other grad students. It was good to get way from residence food and rules. We laughed and pretended to be intellectuals. After I left university, he called me to invite me to a cousin’s wedding Friday night two days hence. He had tracked me down at Blake’s home. I said I was sorry I couldn’t go. He said, “I suppose you have something important on.” He could be snarky. “Well, yes,” I said reluctantly. “I’m getting married.” I may have named my son after him, although I spelled it differently and reasoned it was my grandmother’s maiden name. He died young, in his forties, of a brain tumour. I didn’t learn that until years later, by which time I was divorced.

“I thought you knew,” my ex-roommate said when she told me. “We thought you were the woman in the veil who came late to the funeral and sat in the back row.”

Last night, he turned up in my dream. We were both still young. He was working in a hospital in Toulon, he said. That was odd, considering he had studied physics.Then he enfolded me in an enormous hug. His body was more substantial than it had ever been and he held me tightly for a long time. So thank you, Brian, after all these months I needed that human touch.

 

 

 

Something Arrived: covid gives way to chaos

Look The Writer by Mendelsohn Joe 1982

My last blog post was called Nothing Arrived after the Villagers’ song https://115journals.com/2020/05/14/nothing-arrived-day-64-of-lockdown/

It turns out I only had to wait. Eventually 3 cloth masks arrived from the veterinary supply store, not quite as advertised but that’s understandable – not that veterinarians had much call for them on day 70, but the rest of us did. I also received a book from Amazon –Dead Lions by Mick Herron, a birthday gift for my niece, long overdue because it had been circling the eastern half of the continent. And Land’s End sped a summer dress to me, so I could survive my south-facing apartment. Best of all, a new news cycle arrived. Suddenly, instead of watching the death count in the U.S. rolling past 100,000, I got to see burning buildings and looted stores on Melrose. Melrose!! Stay the F away from my eye glass! store.

I caught no glimpse of my grandson in the LA march. He knew better than to be there, I told myself. I called him after midnight. He had just got back. He had been shot by ‘rubber’ bullets three times, one in the chest, but he was carrying his backpack there. One in his foot, which was bleeding, and one missed his face, on which he was wearing a gas mask. He absolutely had to be there, he said. It was his responsibility as a citizen. I didn’t argue. I just whined like an old granny – wait a minute – about live bullets coming next.

“Do over. Do over,” I cried to the gods. I’ll go back to nothing arriving. Please. Yes, I believe in equal justice. I hate fascism. I fought it as a child, dragging a wagon of tin and rancid fat and paper to school. Don’t you just have to do that once?

So I lit a candle to Kwan Yin and Buddha. I have to give some credit to George Floyd’s relatives who appealed for the violence to stop, but I don’t discount my Taoist saints. It did stop – except for the cops who battered girls riding bikes and tasered students out looking for a snack and  crushed news photographers with their shields and pushed old men over to crack their skulls. But, by and large, no more stealing small appliances or burning auto supply stores.

It wasn’t until grandson phoned me on his birthday that I found out he had stopped marching. Too dangerous.

So shut up here in my tower like the Lady of Shallot, I indulge in magical thinking. If I ‘pray’/think hard enough things can change. Some people march in large crowds and refuse to obey police commends, cf grandson, while some people light candles and think hard. If only… justice would be universal and Trump would lose his voice. Pretty sure he can’t write except his signature.

So today, the march in D.C. is going to be bigger than ever, despite the baby gate around Lafayette Park, along more than the two blocks that read ‘Black lives matter’ from the Space station probably. And there will be marches across the States, here in Canada and around the world.

I’m not black. I was -and am- white trash, a hillbilly from the Eastern Townships. In those days, the French held power in Quebec. The French held the mortgage on our farm. Grandpa Willy had defaulted. My father took it on. At first he took me with him to hand over what cash he could pay. Dad’s talent with fire must have been a concern for Monsieur Mortgage Holder. Dad was always first to show to put out the flames in a barn.

It’s not the same. I didn’t have to worry about my black son being shot. They just put my white uppity hippy white son in the cruiser and did a suspect parade of one. “Not him,” said the lady.

And I had a long career, passing as a normal, respectable, more or less middle class teacher. But I lived by a code. Never call the police. Stay out of hospitals. Don’t mess with city hall or the government. Keep your head down. Lucky me! My skin doesn’t advertise my difference.